SABC headquarters in Johannesburg.

Cape Town - Plans to screen a documentary about a corrupt apartheid deal at a fringe event during the Franschhoek Literary Festival were halted on Friday after the SABC served papers on journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven, who made the film.

The film, Project Spear, was made last year by Vollenhoven for the SABC, intended as part of a documentary series, Truth Be Told. The film was however never screened.

On Friday the issue blew up on social media sites when it emerged legal intervention had stopped the film, planned as part of a fringe event at the festival, from being screened.

Vollenhoven told Weekend Argus she was served with a letter from Werksmans Attorneys, on behalf of the SABC. It referred to her film supposedly about the arms deal. But Vollenhoven is adamant her film is not about the arms deal.

The letter said: “Our instructions are that you have no authority or consent from our client to screen the documentary owned by our client.”

If Vollenhoven did not undertake not to screen the film, the letter continued, the SABC would proceed with an urgent interdict to stop her.

Vollenhoven said Project Spear deals with apartheid corruption, but she wrote back to say the contents of the SABC’s letter had been noted, and that the film would not be screened as planned today.

The film was set for broadcast on November 4 on SABC2.

Vollenhoven was critical of SABC bosses who she said appeared incapable of working with “highly investigative content”. She said she had been negotiating with the SABC since last year to buy ownership rights to Project Spear.

She replied to Werksmans: “I was told that a business plan was doing the rounds at the SABC and that I would be able to buy the rights to Project Spear. Could you please ask your client what has happened to these negotiations.”

On Friday Vollenhoven confirmed the film had never been screened. Asked to comment,

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said: “We are in the process of interdicting her (Vollenhoven) because the property belongs to the SABC, and she does not have any right to exploit it in any way without the permission (of) the SABC.”

He said the SABC had yet to decide whether to screen the film or sell it to Vollenhoven.

Asked under what circumstances Project Spear could be screened, he said: “When the SABC decides to.”

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Weekend Argus